Papers of Henry Dundas and Robert Saunders Dundas, 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers contain the private correspondence of the 2nd Viscount Melville who was Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, 1814-51; along with many letters from the collection of his father, Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, Chancellor from 1788-1811. Most of the correspondence relates to the University of St Andrews but there is some material referring to the Church of Scotland, to patronage matters particularly affecting the families of St Andrews professors and politics.

The papers include:The papers include:Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville: letters from, 1790-1810, letters to, 1782-1811, references to, 1804-20;Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville: letters from, 1790-1810, letters to, 1782-1811, references to, 1804-20;Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville: letters from, 1811-48, letters to, 1810-46;Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville: letters from, 1811-48, letters to, 1810-46;Robert Dundas of Arniston, Lord Advocate: letters to, 1790-1819, letters from, 1810-14, references to, 1791-1819;Robert Dundas of Arniston, Lord Advocate: letters to, 1790-1819, letters from, 1810-14, references to, 1791-1819;William Pitt Dundas, Lord Clerk Register: letters from, 1819-25, reference to 1819.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Dundas was born on 28 April 1742. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University and was admitted as a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1763. His family connections and skills as a public orator ensured him a thriving business as a barrister and at the age of twenty-four he was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland.

From October 1774-1790 Henry Dundas served as a member of the House of Commons and in 1775 he was appointed Lord Advocate, a post he held until 1783. His links with India began in April 1781 when he was appointed chairman of a secret committee on the war in the Carnatic and British possessions in India. The following year Dundas was appointed Minister Treasurer of the Navy, entered the Privy Council and took the office of the Keeper of the Scotch Signet. Although Dundas lost his job as Minister Treasurer of the Navy in 1783 he was made a member of the Board of Control for India in 1784 and became its President from 1793-1802. During this period he held a number of other political appointments most notably from 1791-1794 as Home Secretary, during which he defended the East India Company as Secretary of War in 1794 and as Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland in 1800.

He was created Viscount Melville in 1802 and was First Lord of the Admiralty from May 1804-1805. It was following this appointment that he was accused of using monies for purposes other than the Navy. In June 1805 he was called upon to defend himself in the House of Commons and there was some debate over whether he should stand trial or face impeachment. The impeachment before the House of Lords took place in April 1806 and eventually Dundas was acquitted of all charges. He never again held public office and died on 28 May 1811. He served as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews from 1788-1811.

Robert Saunders Dundas (1771-1851) was the only son of Henry Dundas. He too was educated at Edinburgh High School and entered Parliament in 1797 as MP for Hastings. He then acted as private secretary to his father until 1801. In 1807 he was appointed to the Privy Council and in April of that year, following in his father's footsteps, he became the President of the Board of Control. From 1812-1827 he was first Lord of the Admiralty, and again from 1828-1830. Like his father Robert Dundas also held a number of important appointments in Scotland, including Governor of the Bank of Scotland. From 1814 he was Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews and in 1821 became a Knight of the Thistle. He died on 10 June 1851.

Source: School of Oriental and African Studies website.

Arrangement

Two chronological sequences: Two chronological sequences: Sequence of general correspondence containing letters mainly to the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville with a few others and the occasional copy of a reply. 1782-1848 (ms4427-4752);Sequence of general correspondence containing letters mainly to the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville with a few others and the occasional copy of a reply. 1782-1848 (ms4427-4752);Sequence of letters from Principal George Hill and Principal John Lee of the University of St Andrews to the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville with some others as enclosures, 1789-1835 (ms4753-4923).

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Note

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist; biographical history based on description of the Dundas papers held at School of Oriental and African Studies, GB 102 MS 18945.

Other Finding Aids

Hard copy list available in Reading Room of GB 227.

Alternative Form Available

Some items are copy correspondence.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

Purchased by the Library as lot 742 of sale of portion of the Melville papers as Sotheby's on 23 February 1927.

Related Material

Successive sales of Dundas family papers have resulted in many different Dundas collections. As a result, political papers including correspondence can be found in many local, national and international repositories. See the National Register of Archives. These include: National Archives of Scotland (GD235/8, 10): family correspondence, 1768-1811.